DFI NFII Ultra: Mean Green Dream Machineby Wesley Fink on July 30, 2003 6:25 PM EST
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DFI is not exactly a brand name that you will instantly recognize, and this is a problem for DFI. As one of the largest board makers, most still do not recognize the DFI name. That is probably because DFI caters to the OEM market, which means they make boards for other companies. Recently, DFI has made the marketing decision to pursue the 'Enthusiast' market under their own brand name, most likely to add credibility – and sales – to their entire Motherboard line. The top-end of this effort is called the LanParty series, and DFI has poured everything into these packages that a gaming enthusiast might desire.
AnandTech’s Evan Lieb looked at the new Intel version of LanParty in his review of the DFI PRO875. In his review, Evan concluded, “In the end we can say that we were more than surprised to see DFI introduce such an incredibly good motherboard, even despite our fairly good experiences with their past motherboards. We would recommend the DFI PRO875 to any user looking for a feature-filled and highly overclockable motherboard at a competitive price point.” In my own testing of the 875PRO, the outstanding overclocking performance Evan found was confirmed. The only “Achilles heel” for the DFI Canterwood board: the limited vDIMM settings to 2.7v, which is a very low range compared to other motherboards aimed at the Enthusiast market. DFI has listened to this complaint and now tells us that an updated version of the DFI 875PRO LanParty with an expanded vDIMM range will be available in the near future.
The first Athlon LanParty from DFI was based on the KT400A chipset. While this is a very competent board, the enthusiast market has changed rapidly. VIA replaced the KT400A with a new KT600 chipset to support the 200FSB of the new Barton 3200+, and nVidia launched their update to the nForce2 chipset, which they call nForce2 Ultra 400. The nVidia nForce2 chipset has also been embraced by the Athlon enthusiast market, so DFI saw the introduction of the updated Ultra 400 version of the nForce2 chipset as an ideal time to bring a new LanParty to market.
With such outstanding performance of the early LanParty boards, we were hopeful that DFI would give us another great motherboard in the NFII LanParty. Yet, we were skeptical that they could deliver a top-notch nForce2 motherboard the first time out. Did DFI produce a NFII Ultra worthy of the new LanParty label?